Friday, August 29, 2014

Walking Through Walls

I once had in my memory banks a prose poem by Louis Jenkins called "Walking Through a Wall."  It came back to me a few weeks ago when someone else recited it at a salon.  You can find it here, if you're so inclined.  Hearing it was synchronous for me, as I'd recently written my own poem with a similar title.

A few years ago I made a SoulCollage® card that I later realized had the same title.

I don't have many black and white SoulCollage® cards, but some just feel suited to it, and this is one of them.  To me, this image is saying, "I am one who just might walk through this wall."  Clearly, this idea has meaning for me!

I've been working on some exercises from the Writing for Your Life book in which you look at different splits in your personality.  The one I've been playing with is the Pragmatist/Dreamer.  They are both strong in me.  I don't know where I'd be without my practical, efficient, get-it-done self.  But without the Dreamer, my life would be so much the poorer.  I need the magic.  I need to believe there is magic in this world.

So, here is the poem (titled in the header, with a nod to Louis Jenkins):

the blank page
is an open door.
it is a bare wall
with no door at all.
In that case,
you can choose
to turn around and
walk away,
admitting defeat.
you can place both hands
on the wall,
lean in, and
press lightly
with your fingertips.
Closing your eyes may help.
Pushing does no good.
It is, after all,
a wall.
But if you trust
in magic,
breathe deeply,
and rest in acceptance,
you may,
you just may,
walk through this wall.
Perhaps it will
simply dissolve,
and you will break through
to another world.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How to Receive Love

We must be on a roll in my meditation group - this is the second week in a row that our reading and subsequent conversation have led me back to the blog.  I had one of those little aha! moments Monday night.  It's not that this was some brand new information, but you know how sometimes things can just hit you in a way that hadn't registered before.  (There's a phenomenon Barry and I have noticed about poems, for instance.  You can read one, sometimes many times, and then one day you hear or read it and realize you never even saw it before.  It's like that.)

So, we were talking about receiving love, and that so often love comes at us and we don't see it, or we ignore it, or we devalue it somehow.  Even those little connections with strangers walking down the street, when you both make eye contact and smile, can be moments taken in as love.  I think there are multiple times every day when I shrug off what would help to fill my heart.  Angeles used to say that we should give from the overflow buckets around the well, not from the well itself.  It took me a long time to stop just giving myself away, which is what I internalized in childhood that is what I am supposed to do.  But I have always looked at being open-hearted (which, of course, I always saw myself as not good enough at), as how well and how much I gave.  The aha! came when I saw this week how much I need to open to receive.  (Part of me responds, "Well, duh," but I'm not going to indulge my inner critic today, thank you very much.)  So, here's the first edit of a poem I'm working on (the title is the post's title):

Do not shrug off
the gift of the
stranger’s smile,
the friend’s embrace,
the grandchild’s hand
in yours.
There are so many ways
to receive love.
All of the offerings,
small and not-so-small,
together could fill
and nourish
your hungry heart,
if you would only
recognize them
and welcome them in.

All your life
you have wished to be
one of those regarded as
open-hearted and loving.
The truth is,
it is not that
you give insufficiently.
It is that you do not
replenish the supply
by accepting fully
and consciously
all that is offered

to you.

Friday, August 15, 2014


This week, my meditation group got into a deep and emotional discussion about the idea of purpose.  (After we meditate, we read from a book we're working our way through, and then discuss it).  It can be a real source of pain when you feel you must have a purpose, a reason you are here, and yet you don't know what it is.  Unlike in cultures like that of the Dagara in west Africa, where the elders see who the child is and name him or her according to the child's perceived purpose, in our society very few of us get this kind of support.  I (and I'm sure many of us) had the experience of my parents wanting me to live according to what they wished; I often did wonder if they really saw (yet alone accepted) who I was.

One of the main concepts Angeles Arrien taught (and oh, I'm still so sad that she's gone) is that we all come in with what she called "original medicine," and our job is to bring it into the world.  If we do not, in fact, the world will never have it.

My friend Greg Kimura wrote a wonderful poem on this called "Cargo."  In fact, it's the title poem of his book.  If you don't know the poem, check it out here.

The synchronicity for me about the group's conversation was that I had just written a poem myself on the topic after having a little flash of insight about it.  The poem still feels a little rough around the edges, but I like the idea behind it a lot.  It's called "Purpose."

I love to watch ink forming
            words on a blank page.
I use purple,
            with a cartridge pen
Given to me by a friend
            who knows me well.

Computers come into play
            only later on, for me.
I use my laptop
            to edit, to craft,
But first comes the ink
            flowing onto lined paper,
My hand moving
            sometimes in fits and starts,
Sometimes with
            effortless speed.

When I consider
            my purpose in the world,
When I don’t know who I am
            or what I belong to,
I look at what it is
            that I do.
I build and keep altars,
            and I write.

Mornings, early mornings,
            find me at my desk with
Candles lit, fresh flowers
            in the vase my son made,
Picture of my parents
            beaming at me
In a beyond-death blessing,
            and my old, leather-bound journal.

I face an array of goddess figures
            and a window looking out
On the garden, the hillside sloping
            down to the avenue,
A big expanse of sky, the distant higher hills
            and the edge of the chicken coop.
I silently offer up
            my simple morning prayers       
And then put sleek pen to paper
            and begin.
I writer is who I am
            because it is what I do.
(I am a priestess, too.
            but that is another story.)


Friday, August 8, 2014

The Old Woman Healer: A Fairy Tale

All of the exercises in Writing for Your Life aim to open up the imagination, but some lend themselves more to self-reflection.  This is one of those, at least for me.  Sometimes I wonder about being so self-revelatory in a blog, but then I think that I don't have anything to hide.  And I doubt that more than a few friends are going to read them, anyway.  I don't intend for this to be one of those let's-see-if-I-can-get-famous-and-make-money kind of blogs.  It's more of an attempt to actually work on some of my journal entries so that I don't lose them.  If anyone else is interested in reading any of it, that's icing on the cake.  One thing I started doing some time back was throwing away my old morning pages.  Yup.  I'm not keeping all my journals any more.  I realized I don't want my kids having to read and wade through all of it when I'm gone (or feeling guilty about tossing it all out unread).  So, I tag things I might want to keep and work on later.  Poems that come, and some of these exercises from the Deena Metzger book.

This one was about choosing a moment in your life that you didn't understand and writing it as a fairy tale.  Here goes.

          Once there was a woman who was quite content with her life.   She had raised her children well and had also worked for many years serving children and families in her community.  Now she was about to enter a new phase of life.  Not only had she recently become a grandmother, but she was also now able to retire and rest from all labors except those her heart prompted her to undertake.  She felt expectant and curious.
            After a few short months of settling into this new chapter of her life, the woman began to feel ill.  Fortunately, it did not appear to be a serious illness, but she was not comfortable in her body, and she was unhappy about the lack of energy she was experiencing.  Her symptoms kept changing, as well.  People recommended various healers, and she sought the council of a number of them.  Although they were all well-intentioned, none were able to truly diagnose her illness or improve her health.  And so she muddled along as best she could, trying various diets and many different cures and supplements.  All the while, she was aware of growing older, and she wondered, “Is this what aging is?” 
            One day, she decided to consult one more healer, a so-called wise woman she had heard about who lived in a cottage outside of town.  When she arrived, the woman noticed that she felt nervous.  The cottage was in a clearing in the middle of a deeply wooded area.  It did not feel like a friendly place.
            The old woman opened the door and looked at her with what felt like a piercing eye.  “Come in,” she said, and prepared a pot of herb tea.  “Tell me why you’ve come.”
            “I’ve not felt well since I retired.  I’m afraid of growing old and being ill.  I finally have all the time to do whatever I want, and no energy to do much of anything.  I’ve been to a lot of healers, and none have really helped me.  I was hoping you could.”
            The old woman did not respond for quite a long time.  Then she said, “I can give you some herbs.  They may or may not help.  It is true that your body is aging and that you will experience things you haven’t before.  But this ‘disease’ as you think of it is as much emotional and spiritual as it is physical.”
            “What can I do?” the woman asked.
            “It is the crux of your life.  Everything you ignored, resisted and pushed down is now striking back.  You slowed down, and resting opened the floodgates.”
            The woman grew teary-eyed.  “I’m scared,” she said.
            The crone nodded.  “Being scared is a fine response.  Just don’t let it cripple you.”
            They sat in silence for a short time.  Then the woman asked, “How do you survive alone out here?”
            “Ah.  You see me as alone.  You are more alone in your town than I am here.  I have the trees, the plants in my garden, the animals, and my guides and spirit presence for company.  I never feel alone.”
            “Please help me,” the woman said.
            The elder rose and put her hands on the woman’s shoulders.  “Breathe,” she said.  “Touch and be touched.  Do not isolate yourself, but use your alone time well.  Write.  Sing.  Pray.”
            “Can I heal?”
            “You can.  That doesn’t mean your body won’t feel your aging.  Accept it.  We all must.  And give it all to God, or whatever god or goddess you worship.”
            “Do I need to understand whatever I was pushing down?  Because I don’t know what it is.”
            “You cannot force that kind of understanding.  Be tender with your body, and do not fight it if it wants to deliver you that information.  It will have to come from the body, which is where it has been stored.  Your body is seeking a new balance, a new rhythm, a new pattern.  Let it restructure.  Treat it well, and it will do that.  it takes time, years.  Trust that it has its own wisdom."
            “But bodies do break down, grow cancers, all of that.  How can you tell re-balancing from illness?”
            “You can’t.  You treat yourself well and flow with the process.  If illness comes, it comes.  If you are caring for yourself, you must let go and accept.  Do not blame yourself for illness.  Re-patterning is mysterious and challenging.  You cannot control it.  Is it serendipity?  The gods?  Fate?  No one knows for sure.  You see it according to your beliefs.  But it is not controllable.  This is life, my dear.”
            “I just want to know that I’m doing all I can.  The right things.”
            “You stress too much over that, and that pressure you put on yourself affects your body."
            “This is your work.  Release into calm acceptance.  That doesn’t mean giving up acting in ways to help yourself.  Do you understand?”
            “I think so.”
            “Good.  Go, and be at peace.  Or….practice being at peace.  ‘Practice’ is a good word.  That’s what I try to do.  Practice.  Notice that it doesn’t mean being perfect, or having complete understanding.  It is working at what we wish to learn and be.”
            The old woman packed up a basket of herbs with instructions on how to use them and sent the woman on her way. As she left, she noticed that the woods no longer felt unfriendly, and she realized that she was smiling.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bidding Adieu

Well, that's a misleading title.  I am just now returning to the blog, not bidding adieu.  But that's the title of the poem I'm planning to post.

It's been a long time since I've written here.  It's not that I haven't been writing.  In fact, I'm on my second go-round with Deena Metzger's Writing for Your Life.  I don't know why it took me so long to get to this book.  I love Deena's work (and in fact I'll be going to a workshop with her in a few months), and this book is wonderfully inspiring for writers.  I've been flagging pieces that I'd like to do more with, and I realized recently that blogging is a good way to do that.  In fact, working here may be the only way I actually get back to them.

So, here's my piece for today, Bidding Adieu.

Here is the thing.
I am afraid to be happy.
There, I’ve said it.
If I allow happiness in,
I will lose it.
This life is one of change.
Happiness now means
Sorrow is coming.

Where did I learn this attitude,
This diminishment of life?
Here, in the middle of my seventh decade,
I cling – despite myself -
To this entrenched belief.

I remember - years ago –
Studying the romantic poets, and
Being struck by Keats’ line:
“And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips, bidding adieu.”
At the time I thought -
“Yes!  Yes!  That’s it!”

But the logic that must follow –
(And the thought I never entertained) is -
Sadness, also, has hand at her lips, ever bidding adieu.

Now I long to be unafraid
Of both joy and sorrow.
To deny one
Is to deny both.
I plead with myself -
Let’s accept happiness now.
Sorrow will come regardless, and
Time is short.